In 1998, university professor and professional prankster Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase "freedom of expression" as a joke, an amusing if dark way to comment on how intellectual property law is increasingly being used to fence off the culture and restrict the way we're allowed to express ideas. But what's happened in recent years to intellectual property law is no joke and has had repercussions on our culture and our everyday lives. The trend toward privatization of everything--melodies, genes, public space, English language--means an inevitable clash of economic values against the value of free speech, creativity, and shared resources. In "Freedom of Expression," Kembrew McLeod covers topics as diverse as hip-hop music and digital sampling, the patenting of seeds and human genes, folk and blues music, visual collage art, electronic voting, the Internet, and computer software. In doing so, he connects this rapidly accelerating push to pin down everything as a piece of private property to its effects on music, art, and science.
In much the same way that Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" tied together disparate topics through the narrative thread of the fast food business, and written in a witty style that brings to mind media pranksters like Al Franken, Ken Kesey, and Abbie Hoffman, "Freedom of Expression" uses intellectual property law as the focal point to show how economic concerns are seriously eroding creativity and free speech.